Fake news is here to stay no matter what anyone does because it is a marketable product. It satisfies the human desire for a good story even if it’s about a bad string of events.
Who knows exactly why 10 million people would watch a video of an angry woman ripping the mirror of a van in some sort of revenge on the male chauvinist pigs inside, but they did.
Easier to understand is why someone would fake such a video. You can almost hear them thinking “Oh man, I know this will sucker in some cyclists who’ve almost been hit or some women tired of sexist comments.”
Ten-thousand eyeballs, maybe? 100,000?
Gone viral to hit 10 million? Jackpot!
There are monetary possibilities, of course. If the producers of this video were running Google AdSense running, Investopedia says they might have been earning up to $7.60 per thousand views. Do the math:
A million views is $7,600. Ten million views is $76,000.
Viral videos are a potential jackpot for producers.
“Individuals and businesses make millions of dollars through YouTube advertising, but there are risks to using a platform controlled by another company. Not only is there a chance that a change in Google’s search algorithms could make or break video traffic, but Google also takes a hefty 45 percent cut of revenue from video advertising,” says Investopedia.
That risk can, of course, be reduced by directly feeding the video to websites almost certain to bite on it. A video like the one above is a natural for a half-dozen cycling-specific websites.
Road.cc, the website linked in the screen grab above, is based in the United Kingdom and attracts about a million viewers per month from a round the globe, according to web tracker Drupal.org. Road.cc runs a lot of stories about cyclists assaulted by motor vehicles. From reading road.cc, you’d almost think cyclists and motorists were at war in the UK.
If you’ve produced a fake video echoing this narrative, road.cc would be a good place to try to place it to reach a million people. Not all of them will click and watch, but some will, and some will share with friends, and if you get lucky, the friends will share with friends, and those friends will share with friends, and ad infinitum.
This is wherefrom the term “viral” came. Content can move through the internet the way the flu moves through a city.
The chance to make money encourages its spread, but there are people who would spread it even without the financial reward. There is a certain thrill to producing something that 10 million people are moved to watch. It’s an ego boost.
Ego is one of the many reasons people produce films of various sorts, and books and essays and even, yes, “news.” Anyone who has spent serious time in newsrooms has met some big egos.
There are other motives, too. Some fake news may have propaganda significance, and that carries political value.
For years, the news business was set up keep the fake at least somewhat in check. That’s pretty much all changed now. The old powerbrokers no longer control the market place. The new powerbrokers are mainly in the business of disseminating what everyone calls “content.”
Some of it is bad. Some of it is good. Some of it is accurate. Some of it is inaccurate. Some of it is true. Some of it is fake. And a whole lot of it exists between the extremes.
The tubes are full of not bad, semi-accurate, significantly true stories laden with all kinds of mistakes.
As a content consumer, it is now sometimes hard to sort out what to believe. But the advice historically given rookie newspaper reporters (back in the days when there were newspapers) might be worth considering:
Be skeptical, and never overlook the possibility that if a story sounds too good to be true, there is often a good possibility that it is not true.
Not that you wouldn’t want to see a woman cyclist take revenge on some assholes in a van.